By Judy Owen, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Kicker Marc Liegghio is glad he hasn’t been the Achilles heel for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers this season.
The team has rolled out a 4-0 record to start the CFL season, and Liegghio has made all 10 of his field-goal attempts. He’s also pulling triple duty and has been solid in punting and kickoffs.
That’s good news for the Bombers, who entered the season with a question mark in the field-goal department after using four kickers last year. Final finisher Sergio Castillo ended on a high note and then signed with the Edmonton Elks in the off-season.
“It’s a start that I expect of myself,” Liegghio said Thursday after Winnipeg held a closed practice to prepare for Saturday’s game in B.C. against the 3-0 Lions.
“I know I did really well at university doing all three and I just wanted to translate that and bring it into the pro level. I’m happy with the way that I started, but there’s always things to work on.”
The sophomore’s longest field goal this season was from 45 yards. He’s missed two convert attempts, but his net punting average is 37.0 yards and ranked fifth in the league. He’s also averaging 64.6 yards in kickoffs for fifth place.
He was good on three field-goal tries in last Monday’s 23-22 victory in Toronto, where the native of Woodbridge, Ont., had 60 to 70 family members and friends at the game.
“A lot of hugs and kisses,” Liegghio said with a smile.
The five-foot-seven, 198-pound kicker had an outstanding career at Western University. He was named a U Sports first-team all-star as both a kicker and punter in 2019, two years after the team won the Vanier Cup.
When his four-year university career ended, he was the all-time leading scorer in Ontario University Athletics and set the U Sports’ record for field goals (92-for-105).
Liegghio was drafted by Winnipeg in the fifth round (39th overall) of the 2020 CFL draft, but the season was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Then came his rookie season, which didn’t go as planned for himself, although the Bombers won their second straight Grey Cup.
Kicker Tyler Crapigna started last season but got injured. Liegghio was next and went 5-for-8 in field goals, but ended up doing the punting chores. Ali Mourtada (8-for-15) had a turn before Castillo arrived in late November. Castillo was 5-for-5 in field goals in the Grey Cup.
Mourtada is on the Bombers’ practice roster, but so far Liegghio is holding on to all three jobs after an off-season in which he watched lots of game film and practised with other kickers.
Liegghio said he’s working on the placement of his punts and kickoffs and trying not to let a less-than-perfect kick get to him.
Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea said most second-year players gain some confidence after navigating their rookie seasons, and he’s seen that from both Liegghio and Mourtada.
Winnipeg special teams co-ordinator Paul Boudreau described Liegghio as a “work in progress” and said they’re focusing on the small tasks and ensuring he’s not overthinking every kick.
“He’s done a better job this year of, if he doesn’t hit a ball that he completely likes, not letting that affect him for the next two or three plays that he may have, whether it’s a punt, kickoff or field goal,” Boudreau said.
There’s also been some tweaks to Liegghio’s form.
“I think he’s just narrowed in on being a little bit more compact and not extending himself as much when it comes to kicking,” Boudreau said.
Whatever Liegghio is doing is working so far and appreciated by his teammates.
“We’re definitely confident in him,” Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros said. “We see him every day working his butt off at practice and kicking them through the uprights.
“We know if we get in field-goal range, we’ll get some points. When you have a reliable kicker, it makes a world of difference.”